Ok, I’ve got a good convertible story. It didn’t stop me from driving my beloved ‘verts but I did question my loyalty for a bit.

Backstory: I own a restored 1961 Thunderbird. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this thing. In 2014 I was asked by CotA to be a driver for and use my car in the pre-race Driver’s Parade. I jumped at the chance. I got to ferry around Felipe Massa. It was awesome. A life highlight. Pic for proof:

The next year, October 25th 2015 to be exact. The day of the USGP in Austin. I had been asked if I’d be up to drive in the parade again. I jumped at the chance. I woke up that Sunday to torrential rains in Austin. We pulled her out of the garage and put the top up. If you’ve never seen how the hydraulic-electric top works on a 60's Thunderbird you are missing out. It is all relay controlled. There’s a dozen mechanical relays and seemingly a million switches under the decklid. It all works in beautiful concert to raise and lower the top. The top went up perfectly and we set off to the track at 0700.

The highways were a nightmare of streams across the road and hidden puddles. The sun was just lightening the sky making things tough. The headlights on my car are anemic at best and the wipers are no better than throwing a wet noodle at the windshield. We covered the 20 miles to the track in almost an hour. We had no idea if the parade was on, or what would happen. We parked out front and the line for fans to get in engulfed our car.

When we arrived we were guided in through a gate near Turn 19 and parked along the walkway where F1 fans walking by could admire the cars. It was still raining pretty hard. Around an hour before parade time things started to lighten up.

I figured now was a good time to drop the top and get ready for the parade. I turned on the ignition and hit the switch. The decklid started whirring and lifted about 4 inches, then stopped. Nothing. It wouldn’t go down, up, nothing. It just stopped. I had a circuit tester with me and started trying to test the relays. Water had gotten in and shorted one out.

I struggled with this for about 45 minutes. Parade time was approaching. Shit. I started asking around for a couple 9/16" wrenches. Anything would do. I knew how to drop the top manually but I needed two wrenches to do so. I normally have a toolkit with me but not that day to make room for my rider. Not a single driver for the parade had tools. I was fucked.

Parade time showed up and we had to get moving. I climbed in, panicked as could be. How was I going to drive in a parade with my top up? I kept asking for tools to no avail. We drove around the track, through the tunnel and into the paddock and lined up. I’m still freaked out. We’re 10 minutes to go time. In the paddock it’s funny because all these stars and drivers come out to check out the cars. I was still begging anyone for those wrenches. There’s nearly a dozen F1 teams mere _feet_ from me with $millions in tools and I can’t get two damn wrenches.

It’s now 5 minutes to go time. Someone from out of nowhere comes up and asks if I was the one looking for tools. Hell, yeah I am! He drops off a kit filled with everything anyone could need right as the organizer says “Start ‘em up! It’s go time!” I grab the tools I need and take about 30 seconds undoing the bolts to the hydraulic rams and throw the top down by hand. I look up and everyone is gone. I’m by myself in the paddock.

I jump in and fire the car up. I drive like a bat out of hell out the back exit of the paddock onto the track at Turn 19. The Thunderbird’s 390c.i. screaming. I caught air off a bump near the exit and bottomed out on the landing. My wife could see the look on my face from the crowd and she knew I was in Hulk-mode. She thought I’d literally ripped the roof off the car in the pits. There was no explanation for how the top was down.

I rounded Turn 20 at a speed that upset one of the organizers but I caught up to the parade before they even started loading drivers. I took my place alongside the red carpet and waited for my fare.

Marcus Ericsson climbed in and we had a nice leisurely chat during the 10 minute ride around the track. While not a top driver, Ericsson is a hell of a nice guy. It was still cold as hell and he didn’t ride up on the back deck to stay out of the wind. He sat down in the seat and we talked as he waved to the crowds going by. I was honored to get to hang out with him and chat for a bit, alone and away from media.

Gotta include the picture for proof:

Sorry that went so long...